More than 30 firefighters from nearly a dozen fire departments responded to a remote pasture in Robertson County on Tuesday after a controlled burn spread and consumed 150 acres.
According to firefighters, a property owner had ignited a controlled burn off of South Hickory Loop near Calvert. Just before 2 p.m., the flames spread and -- coupled with high winds -- grew out of control. First responders brought in brush trucks and other vehicles from several departments, including Calvert, Bremond, Black Jack, Franklin, the Texas A&M Forest Service, all volunteer precincts in Brazos County and College Station.
Though no injuries were reported, seven fire vehicles -- five brush trucks and two tankers -- got stuck in the mud. Some of the trucks were damaged, with at least one overheating. A large, six-wheel-drive military cargo truck was requested and managed to pull all fire vehicles out. They are currently being assessed to determine the damage.
South Brazos County Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Kenneth Utz said firefighters said it appeared no people, animals, crops or buildings were affected by the flames, though he noted a few deer stands were lost. Utz said it took nearly four hours for first responders to get the fire under control. Wind gusts ranged between 15 and 20 miles per hour at times; feeding the fire and causing it to spread. Responders did receive some assistance from Robertson County's Road and Bridge Department precincts.
Mark Morgan of Robertson County Road & Bridge rode one of three road graders, which were used to plow dirt and make wind rows, shielding the fire from the breeze.
"The fire was coming this way, so we pushed a pile of dirt along the edge of it so it couldn't get across," he explained as he stood in a field with his grader. "... That is some really tall and weedy grass. The new grass hasn't quite grown up enough here. If [the landowners] had livestock, they would have eaten the grass down."
The road and bridge staff on scene noted that their large vehicles made massive, deep tracks in the soft, muddy hills. They knew other vehicles were going to have trouble.
"Really, it's all got to be four-wheel drive here," David Boring said.
Though the fire was out by early evening, Utz noted that someone will have to watch the fields all night to check for missed hot spots. He warned that even though Robertson County is not currently under a burn ban, controlled burns still could turn deadly.
"The grass on top is as dry as a powder house, but the ground underneath that grass is wet as all get-out," he said. "... The biggest advice I can give [in regards to controlled burns] is to call your local dispatch or county and let them know you're having a controlled burn. Also make sure that the wind is [blowing at] less than 10 miles per hour before starting any controlled burn, even if it's just trash in a barrel."